Behavior Breed Lists Tabby Cats – What Are They and How to Recognize Them?

Tabby Cats – What Are They and How to Recognize Them?

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The term “tabby cat” brings various things to mind for different people, including a beautiful tabby coat pattern. You might propose an alley cat with a raggedly rough coat and scars. For some, this application makes them construe a mental image of their favorite cats.

With so many different interpretations of what tabby cats are, it’s time to regard basic cat facts in relation to cats around the world.

What Is a Tabby Cat?

A tabby cat is not a breed – it is a term that references a color pattern. Tabbies have a distinctive marking in the shape of the letter M on their forehead, stripes around the eyes and pertaining to their face, alongside stripes running down their backs, legs and tails.

The patterns across the body differ but include stripes or spots, but they can also include lines, dots, swirls, flecks and many other pattern types.

One benefit of acquiring a tabby cat is the ability to easily find clothing, such as a cat bandana, balancing her tabby pattern. The patterns are in crossbreeds and cats with a pedigree.

Some of the most popular cat breeds that accept a tabby pattern include American Shorthair, Tortoiseshell cat, Abyssinian, Egyptian Mau, Javanese, Maine Coon, Persian, Scottish Fold, Siberian, Turkish Angora, and many others.

Types of Tabby Patterns

Because all domestic cats can have a tabby gene there are many types, as covered by the following five classes.

Classic Tabby

This tabby pattern is recognized mostly by whorls that end in a “target” on the cat’s side. It is a pattern commonly found in many American Shorthairs and it can be clearly visible if the cat has a high color contrast.

Striped (Mackerel) Tabby

Mackerel tabby cats are so common that many people believe that this pattern should’ve been named as the classic one. This pattern usually comes with striped rings around the cat’s legs and tail, as well as stripes on the front of the cat’s chest that looks like a necklace of sorts. Mackerel tabbies also have bands of broken or solid stripes that run down their sides. They might also have dark lines or spots across their tummies, sometimes referred to as “vest buttons”.

Ticked (Agouti) Tabby

Ticked tabby cats have agouti hairs as the main part of their pattern. When you look closely, you will notice different but distinct color bands running down the length of the cat’s hairs. Due to this unusual color variation, ticked tabbies practically glisten in the sunlight.

Spotted Tabby

Spotted tabbies are a modified version of the mackerel tabby but instead of stripes, their patterns appear in spots. The spots can be large or small but other traits of these tabbies are pretty much the same as those seen in mackerel tabbies.

Patched Tabby

Although the patched tabby pattern is not considered as a basic pattern by many, it certainly deserves to be classified on its own. Patched tabbies come with patches of dark or brown and patches of orange or red, while the tabby pattern goes through both colors.

Any coat color is possible, there are red tabbies, orange tabbies, gray tabbies and many others, the most common is a brown tabby.

Short-fur white and gray tabby cat lying on floor. Part of the "Tabby Cats – What Are They and How to Recognize Them?" article.
Photo by Kandi Noemi on Unsplash

Tabby Cats in History

Tabby cats have been a part of many legends throughout history. But, perhaps the first mention of tabby markings comes from ancient Egypt where cats were called Mau. This led to the name Egyptian Mau for the direct descendants of those early cats.

The origin of the “M” on their foreheads can also be found in various religions. For example, Christians believe that the “M” is the initial of Mary and an expression of Mary’s gratitude to a cat who nested next to baby Jesus to keep him warm. To keep your cat warm and comfortable, you can buy him or her one of these soft and warm cat beds.

Meanwhile, Muslims have their own legend of tabbies. They believe that the “M” stands for Mohammed since he loved cats. He even bestowed them the ability to land on their feet at all times.


A tabby cat is not a term for a breed but for a color pattern. There are five different tabby patterns, which include stripes, spots, swirls, lines, dots, etc, and the distinct M pattern on their foreheads.

Tabby cats come in an assortment of colors and diverse breeds, some are recognized as pedigree breeds. They have a well-established history and they have been included in a prolific number of legends over the years.

Of course, care of any cat is essential, discover the top tips to groom your cat, by clicking here. 


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